Just weeks ago, 600 youth in Juticalpa, Honduras weren't sure where they'd be attending school this year. Their school, Centro de Educacion Basica Manuel Bonilla, had a roof that was in danger of collapsing at any moment. Fortunately, Katherine Najera Villeda, the Founder and President of De Manos Con Amor, took note and decided to do something about it. Less than a month after launching a fundraising campaign on Givebutter, Katherine singlehandedly raised $1,633 from 67 donors and was able to hit her $3,000 fundraising goal with the help of the incredible De Manos Con Amor team.
Inspired and blown away by Katherine and De Manos Con Amor, we asked Katherine for a few minutes of her time to learn more and share her story with the world. Below is a short excerpt from our conversation:
Givebutter: What inspired you to start De Manos Con Amor?
Katherine Najera Villeda: I was raised by a single mother who worked hard to make sure my sister and me had everything we needed and more. Since then I knew my purpose was to give my mom the world because she deserved it. Thankfully I'm in a place where I can financially support her and tell her mom it's your turn to enjoy life to the fullest. Now my purpose is to help others go after their own goals. I want women and girls to have equal opportunities because they have so much potential. And I believe they can change the world, make it a better place for all of us.
GB: (On your site) you talk a lot about empowerment. What does empowerment mean to you?
KNV: Empowerment encompases three things to me. Being supportive of other's goals, everyone could use that one person who says "I believe in you" but more importantly it helps people believe in themselves. Being honest with others in terms of constructive feedback. And finally being genuine, you should want what is best for that person.
GB: Tell us about the school in Honduras.
KNV: Centro de Educacion Basica Manuel Bonilla is the oldest school in Juticalpa, Olancho, Honduras. Saying that the school isn't in the best condition is an understatement. They have blackouts all the time, sometimes there's no running water for the bathrooms, they barely have any working computers, and the list goes on. But what they lack with the physical school they make up for with their spirit. Every single person in that school from the director, faculty, cooks, and students has a heart of gold. They are all so invested in that school and are such a strong community. We are blessed to have the opportunity to help them, even if it's just a little here and there.
GB: We saw that you recently travelled to the school and delivered the money you raised in person. What was that experience like?
KNV: The most rewarding experience in my life by far. It is one thing to raise money and start a nonprofit, it's another thing to realize you are actually making a difference. At the school I gave a speech to the students, I wanted them to realize how many people believe in them. I wanted them to understand that anything is possible, regardless of where you come from. Most of them come from very poor families or single family households, I wanted my story to serve as an example that they can make it. Giving that speech and presenting the school with the check and seeing everyone's reaction was priceless. The children had a million questions, but even more inspiring was hearing about their dreams. It just made all of this so much more real and important.
GB: Many small nonprofits struggle with fundraising. What advice can you share to help others reach their fundraising goals?
KNV: When you are starting out it is hard. But what will set you apart is your personal story. Think of why your nonprofit is important to you, what the cause means to you, and what is your ultimate goal. Then convey this to individuals. I say individuals because mass emails did not work for us at all. What helped is when each member of the team directly contacted a friend, family member, co-worker, even acquaintance. Making that personal interaction changes everything. Even if you have to talk to 100 individuals do it, that's about 15 people a day for a week- that is something that is feasible. And finally keep going! If you talk to 5 people and they don't donate, another 5 will- eventually it becomes a number game. Remember why you're doing this, it will provide you with all the motivation you need.
GB: We'd love to hear about your experience using Givebutter. What did you love and what can we do better?
KNV: De Manos Con Amor is a huge fan of Givebutter!!! I cannot rave about you guys enough. The customer service is superb, everytime I had a question (and we had a few) you guys were super quick to answer. Really appreciated that I was able to communicate with you via email and instagram, it is important that services are listening to all methods of communication. Also I absolutely love the visual that Givebutter provides, I think it gave the fundraising life. The focus was on the donors and the impact they were making, which encourages others to donate. Max and Ari you guys rock! My only recommendation is that you continue growing so others can benefit from this amazing service.
GB: What's next for De Manos Con Amor?
KNV: Soooo much! You just have to stay tuned to find out! But I'll give you a hint, this is only the beginning!
GB: Amazing. We hope to work with you on many more amazing projects soon :)
KNV: We most certainly will!!! Thank you guys!
Katherine Najera Villeda is the Founder and President of De Manos Con Amor, a 501(c)3 nonprofit organization that empowers entrepreneurs to succeed and empowers students to learn. Check out their successful Givebutter campaign that helped 600 youth attend school in Honduras.